Exploring web app vulnerabilities and how to combat them

web app vulnerabilities

Web applications have become integral to our personal and professional lives. There are now apps for communication, content production, entertainment, and so much more. As smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices continue to advance and gain in popularity, developers will roll out more apps. In fact, between 2015 to 2018, the number of apps available in the Apple store increased from 1.5 million to 2.1 million.

One of the biggest appeals of web apps is how convenient they are. Users can download them in minutes from trusted marketplaces like Google Play or the Apple’s App Store. Most apps hardly take up any space, which means the average smartphone user has between 60 to 90 apps on their device.

However, the widespread popularity of these apps has also attracted unwanted attention from cybercriminals.

Why are hackers targeting web applications?

Web apps store valuable information, including credit card numbers, personal information, and passwords, making them lucrative targets for hackers. If they’ve successfully breached an app’s defences, they can also gain access to thousands, sometimes millions, of user devices.

What’s more, web applications are easier to hack than full-featured operating systems or networking hardware. This is because they’re easy to access and usually aren’t equipped with cutting-edge security systems. Most developers are more concerned about writing code quickly or designing new features than patching security loopholes.

Web attacks are also becoming more sophisticated and accessible. Hackers constantly scan poorly developed apps for vulnerabilities and create easy-to-use malware kits that are sold on the dark web. This means even a non-technical cybercriminal with sufficient funds can easily compromise web applications.

Common mistakes developers make

The primary issue with app security is the development process. Considering that developers are under increasing pressure to push their products to market, they’re likely to make coding errors that expose users and businesses to various threats.

Weak authentication policies

One of the biggest mistakes developers make is allowing users to set weak passwords. While some users will always have poor security habits, app developers should make it mandatory for users to set long alphanumeric passwords to prevent account hijacking incidents.

Poor input validation

The most common web application attacks involve inserting invalid and malicious data into apps. These are designed to corrupt databases, create backdoors, or crash the system. Many custom-built apps don’t have countermeasures against these threats and let users submit any type of data.

To combat this vulnerability, developers must monitor the inputs and data provided by users. Web application firewalls must also be installed to block anything that has malicious intent.

No encryption

A surprising number of applications come without any form of encryption, putting user data at huge risk if the app is ever compromised. The solution: developers must protect their data — such as passwords, credit card numbers, and personally identifiable information — at rest and in transit with SSL encryption systems.

Using untrusted services

Those who code for a living rarely build applications from scratch. Instead they piece together blocks of code from third-party services to develop user interfaces, user authentication functions, and other features. The problem is, some third-party services aren’t trustworthy.

Developing apps from the ground up may sound like a more secure option, but if the programmers are inexperienced and unaware of security best practices, they may create even more problems.

To avoid this issue, developers must use reputable, well-tested open source codes from companies like Github, or app development software from Microsoft.

Our solution

If you want to develop and manage secure web applications, Empower IT Solutions provides these services. For starters, we support Microsoft PowerApps, an intuitive service that lets you create custom apps with minimal coding experience. We also support Flow, which allows you to create automated workflows across multiple applications.

We also implement firewalls to protect you against app-based attacks. Finally, our risk assessment and proactive testing services root out and eliminate software bugs that can potentially be exploited by hackers.

Call us today to learn more about our app development and security services.